Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Biggest Loser Season 15, Episode 3: Gym Auction

I have to say that I am loving the one-hour format. It gets rid of all the fluff. I also like that they moved the "where are they now?" segment to the beginning of the episode instead of the end. By the end of a TBL episode, I'm tired and have a hard time focusing on the transformation story, and getting that at the beginning starts the episode off on a high note.  Fernanda looked great. It was fun to see her dressed up in a sexy red dress to go out with her husband -- they met when they were 15!! It has to be fun for them to have a little spark again. She has a much more impressive career than most TBL contestants, so she was probably glad to get back to work.

Other than that, I found this week's episode a little dull. The big gimmick for the week, the gym auction, fell a little flat to me as the trainers are experts and should be able to use whatever equipment they have available (or no equipment at all) to give the contestants a good workout. Jillian, for example, seems to use her own body as a weight about 75% of the time. I agreed with the Blue Team that buying treadmills (especially in sunny Southern California) was not that great of an investment, but Jillian does tend to have her team run sprints on them.

The "Mystery Box" gimmick seeemed especially silly. It really made the whole auction ridiculous.

After my negative comments about Tanya last week, I felt really bad for her this week after I learned how her mother abused her, especially when she got complimented. I understand that it must have been hard for a very young mother to see her daughter getting attention, but there is no excuse for hitting a child. Earlier in the show, I had been complaining about Dolvett enabling her attention-seeking behaivor (Jillian once said she never gives attention to contestants when they quit, because that only encourages more quitting, and that seemed doubly true here if Tanya has a thing for Dovlett), but her desire to have someone "save" her makes more sense after hearing her history.

There was also the whole story with Matt this week and  his postponed wedding. The contestants all got to call home to talk to their families, and I admired Matt's fiancee for telling him that she wanted him to keep his head in the game and stop feeling guilty for leaving her behind.

The only other thing that really stood out to me was the interchange with Holley and Hap -- Bob wanted Holly to get on Hap's back, and she said that she has weighed more than 300 pounds since she was 8 years old and doesn't "do" piggyback rides.  That seems sensible enough, but surprisingly, Hap was able to carry her when she finally gave in -- strong dude! Holley, despite her celebrity status, has not been featured much in these episodes so far. Maybe she doesn't have a lot of personality or is just shy in front of the camera (which is what it seems like with the clips we have gotten so far). Or, maybe she is going to be featured more later. She has, apparently, done reality TV before.  I was thinking that she was the Olympian discussed as having trouble finding sponsors because of her size, but that was Sarah Robles. Still, women's power lifting doesn't have a big audience in the U.S., and Holley doesn't seem to be living a glamorous lifestyle either, given the NY Times' story that describes her sleeping under a drying rack hung with medals and "her enormous brassieres" in her trainer's basement. I was thinking, though, that having a big personality is probably just as important for winning sponsorships as having good looks or (unfortunately sometimes secondarily for women) big athletic success. It's hard to imagine Holley ever being an attention-seeker -- she just seems too down-to-earth.

The contestants all seemed down this week -- I imagine that this week's weigh-in slump had more to do with them feeling lonely and homesick than with the gym equipment issues. Also, by week three they have all dropped the water weight, but haven't had time to develop the muscle that allows for big weight losses in the later part of the season.

Right now, I'm itching for makeover week. I want them to teach Holley to wear lipstick without sticking her lips out like a duck, and shave off David's ugly beard, and make Jay ditch the Garth Brooks hat.

Wednesday weigh-in: Up

Let's get this over with so I can move on to my review of last night's Biggest Loser: I am not the biggest loser. I'm over, 180 this morning (just barely) and I know it is a result of the last few weeks not tracking. It is also the week in my cycle when I tend to be up, so I should be able to have better news to report next week, especially if I work on tracking my food and eating better. I am going to take my cue from Heather and shoot for a one pound per week loss, which would get me under 175 for my birthday.

Eating at home more often (I only have one evening class now instead of two) should help a lot. I also notice from my Jawbone UP data that I'm not getting nearly as much sleep as I need, so that is something else I have to work on.

In accordance with my new fitness goal, I got a sports massage from a therapist recommended by one of the other members of my swim group. This massage therapist seems like a combination massage therapist and physical therapist. She did a lot of evaluation of my body and the way things were working (or not working). I was surprised when she had me raise my right leg and try to resist when she pushed down that I had some serious pain in my right thigh muscle. She said that I have a weakened rectus femoris which is probably the problem responsible for my knee pain.  I also have pain deep in my hamstrings when massaged.

I am now sporting bright pink racing stripes (kinesiotape) on my right thigh and on my left foot. I opted to give you a foot picture rather than my thigh. You're welcome!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My new fitness goal

I had high hopes for last year-- I wanted to do an Olympic-distance triathlon in addition to a couple of sprints. But I have still been having problems with my left foot and this summer, the right knee started to give me trouble.

My new fitness goal is different: One year injury-free.  If I could keep injuries at bay, a lot of other goals could become possible. But this is going to be my primary goal. I am defining success as going an entire year without needing physical therapy.

How does this work in practice? The other day I was planning to go for a 40-minute run, but Ye Olde Knee was feeling tricky. I cut the distance in half, with plans to bag it if anything felt worse.  If my goal were a race, I might be tempted to push through the pain, but my goal is injury-free.

I also have a massage scheduled today with someone recommended by another person in the triathlon club. I have tried massage before, and it feels nice but it usually doesn't do anything more than that. This therapist specializes in sports massage and lists cool things in her bag of tricks like myofascial release and kinesiotape.  I have high hopes.

I have fit in a few small strength training sessions, too, because I know that will be part of the picture. I'm also looking for a good yoga class through the JCC/YMCA system (I am trying to cut down on paying for extra classes).

Now that I'm a Very Old Person, winter seems to bring on the aches and pains, which is why this goal has suddenly leapt to the forefront. But I'm also reading blog posts by fellow battered runners and other fitness fanatics and I think it's time for us all to admit that we need to ditch the "no pain, no gain" philosophy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Where have I been?

I know I haven't been blogging as much lately. I have been doing my Biggest Loser reviews, but I haven't posted a more personal post in a couple of weeks.

Mostly I have been on my effort plateau, not letting my lifestyle changes totally go but not focusing as intently on them either. My weight is actually up a bit on the scale today -- I will weigh in officially on Wednesday and make sure to post. It will probably be Thursday before the TBL post goes up.  I have been getting compliments on my weight loss lately, and I see differences in my legs and face. I think if I can get into a routine where I can eat most meals at home again, things will really move in the right direction.

I ended my first 7-week term at school, which was very busy. There have been a lot of other things going on at work that have been stressful.  Then, I made the mistake of saying yes to a request that seemed reasonable at first, but turned out to be just too much for me, especially at a busy time in the semester. Luckily it resolved itself, and it's a good reminder to be careful about what I say yes to.  Jesse has also been busy at work so we have barely been home at the same time.

Anyway, I didn't want you to take my silence as a sign that I have given up.  
The thing about really making this a lifestyle change is that even when I am busy and feeling frustrated, I do okay.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Biggest Loser Season 15, Episode 2: The luck of the draw

The goal here is not to give a recap, but to pull out some interesting points from each episode. Full episodes and episode guides are available at the show website.

The theme of this episode was chance -- the big dice are back, making one team member's results effect the whole team brought that element to the forefront. It also meant that no one could calculate that this would be a good week to slack off -- though on this show it really doesn't seem like that would ever be a great idea. The introduction of "red lines" early in the show means that a team member can't talk his or her way into staying if the numbers aren't there. They all had to lose as if their whole team were depending on them, because they could be.

There is always an element in life that can't be controlled. One of the big things successful contestants always seem to learn is that there are things in their lives that they can control (their own behavior, their choices) and things that they cannot (other people's actions, dumb luck). One of the factors that seems to lead people to the show in the first place is trying to control the wrong things, and there are always situations on the show where people get so hung up in some external drama that they forget to manage the things they can control.

I saw a little of this dynamic in Red Team member Tanya this week. One of her team members spilled water during a challenge where they were trying to fill a fishtank, and she would not let it go. One thing that can't be controlled is the past, and everyone makes mistakes. The challenge was somewhat important, but not so important that it was worth alienating a team member over. In the long run, building good relationships is just as important on TBL as anything else. There were a lot of elements to this challenge that were left up to luck, but teams were also all tied together. This meant that learning to work together was an important element, and it also increased tension for people who want to be in control. Tanya, ironically enough, ended up being the one whose weight counted for the whole team, and she got really lucky because she did not have a good week, and just survived because someone else was worse. Her language when talking about her team bugged me for some reason, describing one as "my little rock star," and another as "my gentle giant." I think it made me think she placed herself at the center of the Red Team Universe. But of course, this could all be editing. This is still reality TV, so the editors still want to invent drama if they can.

There are some areas, though, where the show has really improved. At the beginning of the show, we get an important discussion between Craig and Jillian after she "saved" him the last week.  It seems to be the kind of conversation that Jillian was talking about when she said that we never hear the whole story. In this Craig had responded to the death of his overweight father at a young age with so much guilt and pain that he seemed determined to repeat his father's patterns and early death. Letting go of the guilt and the weight, he said, felt like turning his back on his father.

I also liked that we got one in-depth visit with Dr. H. and Ruben instead of a whole bunch of random medical information. Not surprisingly for a guy who ways almost 500 pounds, Ruben has Type II diabetes.  There was some real discussion of what that meant for him.

I loved seeing the update with Lindsay from last season -- she seems to have really grown into herself and looked genuinely happy and active. She also seems to have dropped the cheerleader obsession. I think the show did a reasonably good job with the kids who signed up to be on the show. What I really did not like was that Jennifer's daughter's weight issues were dragged so prominently onto the show. The kids from last season were kids who had signed up for the show, but as far as I can tell, Jennifer's daughter has not. I feel sorry for her having to go to school after her friends see her mother crying on national TV about her weight problems. I also think that turning a kid into a problem only makes things worse.

Finally, I felt really bad for Hap for missing the birth of his son, but he really stepped it up this week. He responds so well to Bob's belief in him that it makes me wonder if he didn't have anyone in his life who seemed to have faith in him. I wonder if we will get more of his story.

As always, comments, thoughts, discussion welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Biggest Loser Review, Season 15, Episode 1: "This isn't a realityshow, this is rehab!"

This review is not a plot summary -- it won't focus on telling you who will or won't be eliminated, or providing a full recap of the show. Instead, I will react to the things I found interesting in the episode. Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments!

Jillian Michaels had mentioned on her podcast that this season, the trainers had a chance to be part of the casting process on "The Biggest Loser," so I wasn't surprised to see them interviewing would-be contestants on the show, I was just surprised to see them dumping pictures into their "NO" pile for the cameras. That seemed a bit mean to me.

This season's cast has another Olympic athlete, and this time it's Holley Mangold, who spoke openly about how it was difficult for her to get sponsors because of her weight. I was objecting to her statement that she didn't want to be "just an Olympian," but Jesse suggested that she might think she has a better chance of medaling if she could go down a weight class and maintain most of her strength.

There is also something new, a B-lister, Ruben Studdard, who had some limited success after his "American Idol" win but seems to had a lot of expensive, celebrity-style problems -- embezzling family member/business manager, marriage and divorce, lawsuits. My guess is that he is on TBL partly because he needs the money -- he is probably getting more than the usual pay for being on the show. He also probably wants to lose what is an alarming belly even by TBL standards. He is the biggest guy on the show.

There are not the usual "freak-show" contestants this time around -- no extremely huge ones, no older contestants, no super-young contestants (the ages range from 24-43), no one who seems obviously chosen to be the "mean girl." Maybe having the trainers involved in the casting injected some sanity this time. There is one thing that weirded me out a little -- a contestant who seems to have been chosen by Dolvett because she said she had a crush on him was put on his team. Dolvett is a stunningly handsome guy, but it seems weird that he would want someone he trained to have that kind of interest in him.  He has always long, deep, soulful stares into his contestants' eyes (icky), but to have someone who might take that as a sign of a love connection could get a bit weird.

The format was shorter this time -- only one hour -- and there didn't seem to be the usual annoying padding. The show moved quickly and seemed to offer up a new take -- no contestants falling off treadmills with the camera shake to remind us that these people are heavy. Jillian said at one point, "this is not a reality show, this is rehab." The show seems to be taking itself a little more seriously. The contestants seem to be taking it seriously, too. They don't seem to be fake-crying to get attention or get out of workouts.  They seem to be trying hard to show that they belong.

Even the contestant with the most heartbreaking history, David, refuses to play along with the usual TBL storylines. Though he lost his wife to cancer at an early age, he doesn't want everyone to see him as "just some sad puppy who was run over by life. I'm more than just a sad story." He has a mark on his chest that is there to remind himself and others that he has "the heart of a warrior." Good! It is annoying to see a personal tragedy turned into Sadsploitation.

Edited to add this paragraph: One other story that really stood out to me was Rachel's. On the show she said she was on-track to be a champion swimmer but "gave it all up for a boy." Swimmers tend to do well on TBL (Ali Vincent, Tara, Danni). I was more struck, though, by this sense she seemed to have that one bad decision had ruined her whole life, another common phenomenon on TBL. I think that all-or-nothing thinking tends to be a major factor in weight gain and a major barrier to change, so it's not surprising that this attitude turns up so often on the show, often among former athletes whose glory days passed too quickly (Matt, Rulon, several former football players). Maybe this bothers me because I had this attitude myself when I was in my 20s and over 200 pounds -- I thought I had ruined my whole life. Luckily I was able to break out of that attitude and make changes. Rachel's contestant biography said it took her six years after her relationship with the boy ended to gain 100 pounds -- it's too bad that she let one bad decision put her on a long downward slide. If there is one real lesson that TBL preaches, it's that it's always possible to turn things around. That has always been the thing that keeps me watching the show season after season.

I have one big unanswered question after watching the first episode: How does the "trainer save" work? Can the trainers use it every time someone is eliminated, or is there a limit to how often it is used? If they explained this somewhere in the episode, I missed it. I think it would cheapen the show if the trainers could save every person who failed to make a weigh-in.

I think this season shows a lot of promise and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.

Wednesday weigh-in: Effort plateau

My weight has gone up and down in a 2-pound range, but it is really holding steady. I have been exercising regularly but my food logging has been inconsistent.

The good news is that I will be down to one class per week and might actually get to have some dinners at home. That makes a big difference.

Biggest Loser review coming soon. I loved the one-hour format!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Wednesday weigh-in: No more drama, please!

In case you missed my tweet yesterday;

I'm able to sustain the energy needed to keep up with a dietbet for about two weeks, and they last for four weeks. I feel really motivated at the start, but then, meh.

It doesn't help that the last couple of weeks have been crazy. A family member continues to have health problems, and was in and out of the hospital. I spent time visiting that I should have used to grade/plan for classes, and then got very behind on everything. I skipped working out yesterday to get caught up.  I have a  little more to do today to really be where I need to be, but I am going for a run today anyway.

This family member is not going to change in the ways necessary to really recover, so I need to stay ahead to be ready for future developments. I hate that this is the reality of the situation, but it is.

Back to me for a moment -- my  weight is down a little today. My weigh-ins have a lot to do with how much I ate the day before, and yesterday was a light food day.  I have been tracking faithfully all week, too, which makes a difference. In the last couple of weeks, I had let that slide, mostly because I didn't want to see the too-high calorie numbers I knew would be there.

No more dietbets for a while. I just want to do the simple things: Exercise, track my calories, make good food choices, drink water, get enough sleep.

On an annoying note, the left Shift button on my netbook keyboard is only working about half the time now. I think sooner or later I am going to have to break down and buy myself a decent computer instead of these crappy $200 netbooks. It IS, after all, my primary work tool, so I should probably make an investment in a decent one.

Monday, October 07, 2013

What I did last week

It was a tough week -- I didn't have enough sleep, enough time, or enough exercise. I just tried to hold steady with my workouts:

Monday: 20 minutes running, plus some walking
Tuesday: walked
Wednesday: 10 minutes running/3 minutes walking/10 minutes running, plus warmup and cooldown walk
Thursday: Spinning class
Friday: 12 minute run plus some walking
Saturday: Pilates Circuit class
Sunday: First Master's Swim workout of the new season, 1 hour. Short walk.

I was worried about going back to swim practice because so many of my swims over the summer were half an hour or less, and swim practice is an hour. I made the mistake of dropping down to a slower lane and got totally frustrated. Next week I would rather be the slowest person in a fast lane rather than being the fastest person in the slow one. I wish our coach would make lane assignments, because there are new people and it's hard to know where everyone stands.

I averaged just over 10,000 steps a day. It was a pretty inactive week since I was trying to catch up on work, and I have to sit to do it.

Tomorrow is the final weigh-in for my dietbet and I'm not sure I will make it. Weight loss has not been my biggest priority -- there are too many other things going on, but I have done a pretty good job of holding steady.  I have not been getting as much sleep or exercise as I would like and I also haven't had as much time as usual to fix meals. I have been feeling pretty stressed overall. I .am pretty behind on grading and am writing this as a little break during a marathon grading session today -- my other break will be going for a run.

Responding to a comment from Vickie: Though I don't have the unedited version of my unflattering photo, there are a whole , if you want to browse them. The photos below show how the same dress can be more or less flattering depending on the way I layer it and the way I pose for the photo. I am guessing that a lot of women might feel, as I do, that adding a jacket definitely helps make a dress more flattering.

Have a good week!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Recipe: Chipotle-inspired bean and rice bowl

I had never made black beans at home from scratch, even though I have really enjoyed them when eating at Chipotle. I don't go there often, but it is better than most fast food options so if I'm in that situation, that's what I opt for.

This was a very easy dinner to put together, I just had to plan ahead enough to soak the beans overnight. I used a recipe from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and modified very slightly.  I left out the jalapeno and added red pepper flake instead, and substituted apple cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar.  

I also made a rice dish that was very similar to the Chipotle Cilantro Lime rice from a recipe I found online. The only change I made here was to use water instead of broth to cook the rice -- I wanted the cilantro and lime flavors to really come through.

Because these were oven/crockpot recipes, I didn't have to watch the stove. The only somewhat labor-intensive part was preparing the toppings: I chopped up some tomato, red onion, lettuce, cilantro, and avocado. I used one of those hand-graters to add a little sharp cheddar cheese -- I always use less when I hand-grate the cheese onto my food than when it is pre-grated.  

This would be a fun thing to serve for a party -- you could chop the toppings into individual bowls and let people build their own bowl or burrito.  I put so many veggies on top that you can't really see the beans and rice, but they're there.  This was a filling and delicious meal for a weeknight and would be perfect for Meatless Monday.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Wednesday weigh-in, special Thursday edition: Same as last week

Tuesday marked 23 years since my husband and I started dating, and it was also a rare night off from classes for me (we had all-day meetings so classes were cancelled). We took advantage of this midweek holiday to go to Dégagé Jazz Café, a casual restaurant in downtown Maumee with great food and live music.  Anytime I have even one glass of wine, my weight is up the next day.  I decided to give myself a break and weigh in officially today instead. I had been up yesterday but am back down to where I was last week.  
These last few weeks have been hectic: Work worries, a family member's health problems, etc., and it is still going on.  I am going to leave my house today at 8:30 a.m. and not get back here until 10:00 p.m.  Some of these activities are by choice (like my French lesson today) and others are not optional (like meeting with one of my students this afternoon).  Right now, holding steady is a reasonable goal, I think.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07